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Manafort Trial Secret Meetings; Stone Aide Defies Subpoena; Gates Question Sparks Request; Democrat Supports Border Security; GOP uses Pelosi in Ads. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:26] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

New tension and new intrigue in the Paul Manafort trial. Prosecutors again challenge remarks the judge made with the jury present. And we now know star witness Rick Gates is also helping with other still secret aspects of the special counsel investigation.

Plus, how's this for turning the tables? A Democratic senator in a tough re-election race says President Trump isn't doing enough to secure the border and stop illegal immigration.

And the Iowa State Fair is open, which guarantees two things, fried just about anything on a stick and a parade of people who think they should be the next president. Count the never shy attorney for Stormy Daniels among them.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: You know, I'm here to listen to the great people of Iowa, explore the fair, and figure out if it makes any sense to run for the presidency or not. And somebody told me that they'd sold twice as many tickets as they normally do. I mean people evidently want to come out. They want to hear what I have to say. And I'm encouraged by that.


KING: Back to that, shall we say, interesting story a bit later.

But we begin with two law and order mysteries, both tied to the Russia meddling special counsel investigation. One, what is causing secret meetings and a delay in today's proceedings at the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort? And, two, why is the special counsel calling the so-called Manhattan Madam, a woman who once ran a high-profile prostitution ring, before the grand jury? We do know she's a close friend of Trump confidant Roger Stone.

The Manafort trial first. The prosecutors arrived at the courthouse today within striking distance of finishing their case, but there has been no testimony yet. Instead, the judge has called private so-called side bar conversations with the prosecutors and defense attorneys and then he ordered an early lunch recess to, quote, consider an issue.

Our crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz has been tracking this trial.

Do we have any idea what this pause is about?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: No, not at all, John. You know, we had expected, as you said, for prosecutors to wrap up their case today. They came in this morning, both the defense and the prosecutors, and the judge had called them to the side -- to the side bar, up to the bench, out of -- you know, the jury was not present. The public could not hear what was going on.

There were two of these side bar conversations. And the judge essentially said he'd be back. He went to the back of the courtroom. He did not walk towards his chambers, I'm told by, you know, CNN folks who were inside the courtroom. He went to the area where the jury usually sits in the back of the courtroom. He was there for some time. He then returned and said he'd be back -- court would be back in recess at 1:45 where they would continue to hear evidence.

We don't know what this delay (INAUDIBLE). Whatever the delay is, it's not been cleared up. The judge needs more time.

The attorneys for the defense team have not said anything to the press there. The special counsel's office, which is obviously overseeing this prosecution, has not given us indications on what this delay certainly is. But it is peculiar. It's weird. No one expected this today. And certainly, as we know, this judge likes to move things along. So it has to be something that he's still considering, something's perhaps maybe significant to cause such a delay in this trial.

KING: That point about the judge, an important one. He has tried to keep this as speedy as possible. Obviously, a mysterious pause. We'll stay on top of it.

Shimon, if you get more information, come on back.

Meanwhile, another law and order twist. A former associate of long time Trump confidant Roger Stone did not appear for a scheduled grand jury hearing today, defying a subpoena from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

CNN's MJ Lee is outside that courthouse, a different courthouse, here in D.C.

MJ, what happened?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, John, Andrew Miller, a former aide to Roger Stone, was supposed to make an appearance, testifying before the grand jury at the courthouse today. But we are just learning that he is not going to do that. So, as you said, he is defying the subpoena from Robert Mueller.

And we caught up with his lawyer, Paul Kamenar, and he tells us that the plan was, the hope was, that by Andrew Miller not appearing for this testimony today, that he would be found in contempt by the judge, and that is exactly what happened. He is now found to be in contempt by the judge. And the judge has now issued a stay until Monday. And what his lawyer is telling us now is that this will kick off the appeal process, again, so that they can argue that Andrew Miller does not want to and will not appear before the grand jury as a part of this investigation.

What they have argued in the past, too, remember, is that they believe this investigation on its whole is unconstitutional, and that is why they think that Miller should not have to participate in this testimony, this grand jury testimony. And so this is their plan going forward.

[12:05:12] Obviously, keep in mind, Miller is not the only aide, you know, related to Roger Stone. Somebody in Roger Stone's orbit that Mueller's team has been interested in. Kristen Davis is supposed to appear at this courthouse later today as well. So we're on the lookout for her as well, John.

KING: MJ Lee outside the courthouse where the grand jury is here in Washington. MJ, appreciate it. Keep in touch if there's more developments.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, "Politico's" Eliana Johnson, CNN's Manu Raju, Matt Viser with "The Boston Globe," and Lisa Lerer with "The Associated Press."

Let's go back to the Manafort trial.

And one of the things we don't know is, what is this about? And it's always here. At this point, we are getting close to getting to the jury. Judges and the attorneys do have more conversations at that time in a trial. And now you have this mystery where this judge goes out. And another part we do know -- as we try to figure out what this mystery is, and I don't want to speculate about it, we'll wait till the judge comes back and clears it up -- we do know that the prosecutors came to court today for the succeed day in a row asking the judge to clean up some of the words that they say were prejudicial. They were having testimony yesterday about a loan Paul Manafort was trying to get, and the judge said -- cracked a quip, why don't you focus on a loan he actually got. And the prosecutors are mad because if you're in a criminal conspiracy, it doesn't matter if you get to the finish line. If you're in a conspiracy about something, you should be able to talk about that. So they wanted -- there's been tension with the judge about his conduct in the case. How significant is that?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it could be significant. We don't know exactly what is exactly this delay is all about. We don't know if the judge will actually clear up any of the things that the prosecution has been concerned about. They are concerned that what he has been saying could influence the jury in the long run.

I think that's what's, you know, interesting also is that we don't know about why a decision was made to seal this discussion that occurred also between -- involving Rick Gates and the Trump campaign and if this is a suggestion by the prosecution that Gates is cooperating with the Mueller team about that separate investigation, which is about Russian interference and about whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign. So there's a lot of unanswered questions. And we'll see how significant they turn out to be.

KING: Normally you get toward the end of a trial, you're clearing up questions. At this juncture, in this trial, we're adding questions, if you will.

To that point, here's what happened in court. The defense lawyer, Kevin Downing, questioning Rick Gates, the star witness, Paul Manafort's former business partner, who said, yes, we broke a lot of laws, yes, we lied on our taxes, yes, we lied on these bank forms, yes, we hid money in overseas accounts. That's what Rick Gates has been saying. The defense has been trying to say, you did this. Paul Manafort's not involved in this stuff.

Larry Downing -- Kevin Downing, excuse me, the defense attorney, have you been interviewed by other members of the office of special counsel about the Trump campaign? Rick Gates, yes. Downing, and were you interviewed on several occasions about your time at the Trump campaign? So the defense brings in the Trump campaign into the trial. The prosecution says, whoa, stop, and they go up to the judge.

And they -- there was a court filing that -- the conversation they had with the judge is now sealed. Often those conversations show up later in the transcript the day, the next day, or within a couple of days. That has now been ordered sealed because the special counsel filed a -- filed this, disclosing the identified transcript portions would reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation. In addition, sealing will minimize any risk of prejudice from the disclosure of new information relating to that ongoing investigation.

So the translation is that Gates is not just a star witness in the Manafort trial, which is about issues that predate the 2016 campaign. That they are -- they are trying to mine Gates for something later.

MATT VISER, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": And that's where this gets really fascinating. I mean because this whole case about Manafort has been kind of hard to follow and it's unrelated to President Trump other than that Manafort was very important to his campaign.

The Gates stuff is directly relevant to what Mueller is looking into. And he was in a key position during all of these key moments of the Trump Tower, of the WikiLeaks document dump. And he stayed on after Manafort left. So he is in a very important position to reveal something.

And now we have what seems to be evidence that he is talking with the special counsel.

KING: That his role is way more important than just rearview mirror, what Paul Manafort and he did before they joined the campaign. LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": But I

think it also reminds us of how much we don't know about what's going on with the investigation. I mean sometimes I feel like I'm having coffee with Rudy Giuliani every morning because he's on TV so much. But we're only hearing 50 percent of the story. And I think that's a really important thing to keep in mind, especially when you get these little trickles of information that make you say, oh, well, what's behind the door? And we really -- we really don't know.

And -- so I think when we look at the polling numbers, when we think about this investigation as a political entity, we just don't know what's going to come. And it's really hard to be predictive or, you know, make assumptions, like the Trump campaign seems to make, oh, this will be done by September 1st because of this DOJ guidance. Well, it's not so clear that that DOJ guidance pertains to this investigation. And is -- so I just think that's a really important thing to keep in mind here.

[12:10:18] ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, I think watching the trial unfold, the question raised in many people's minds is, you know, how does this relate to the 2016 election? How does it relate to Russian meddling? But that conversation that defense lawyers raise really revealed that the Mueller team was talking to Rick Gates and perhaps using him -- has plans to use him as a witness against Trump. Not only that, but if they extract a conviction against Manafort, they also hope to squeeze him for information against Trump.

KING: Right, you come -- you come away, when you see that, with a clear impression the special counsel's office -- the Trump people would like to say this is an isolated case. It had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. Special counsel making the case, this is a building block. This is one of our cases. But we're going to move on from here.

To the point you make about so much we don't know. MJ Lee is standing outside of that courthouse. A person nobody in America -- most people in America haven't heard of, Andrew Miller, defies a subpoena. A person, if you think back to the Elliott Spitzer days as New York governor, a lot of people have heard of, they might not remember her name, Kristen Davis, the Manhattan Madam, is about to be a witness before the grand jury. And you'd say, what? What does this have to do -- you know, what does this have to do with Russian election meddling or any Trump campaign, you know, nefarious activity possible or alleged?

We do know they're both very good friends of Roger Stone. We do know Roger Stone says this is just because he's a good Twitter reader and a good interview reader. But Roger Stone knew in advance, or signaled in advance, about the WikiLeaks document dump from Julian Assange that you mentioned.

Do we have any sense of how they think these Stone associates can get them to a relevant piece of information?

RAJU: Well, we know that they are circling around Roger Stone. I mean for weeks they've been interviewing some of his key associates, people like Michael Caputo, long-time friend of Roger Stone, others, including Sam Nunberg (ph) said publically that they -- he believed after he met with the special counsel that they were interested in Roger Stone.

They have not spoken with Stone, which is also a suggestion that they want to talk to people in his orbit before talking to him. And I also think it also signals more broadly the Trump team wants this to conclude by September. This is not going to conclude by September. This investigation is ongoing. There's a lot we don't know. And there's some key people that are still -- they have yet to be -- yet to be interviewed and they ultimately have to determine how to move forward after that.

KING: Right. And to that point, there is no hard and fast rule the special counsel has to shut down.

LERER: Right.

KING: There is a general principle that within 60 days or so of an election, you don't deliberately do anything that could interfere with that election. James Comey is recent exhibit A in how people say don't do it that way.

Here's Jay Sekulow, one of the president's lawyers, they continue to make the public case that it is up to -- that Mueller, essentially, has a responsibility to shut it down.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: This needs to be over with soon. It's -- I think it's been very bad for the country. And we're at a point in this inquiry where they can wrap it up. This has been the most transparent investigation in U.S. history. All of these documents given, all of these witnesses put forward, they really don't need to speak to the president. They haven't made the constitutional case to speak to the president.


KING: He doesn't mention all the stories changed. I would also say all the lies told. But that -- why did the president -- the president's lawyers, we'll see if they ever end up in court if they're good lawyers. That's a political argument. That's not a legal argument. There's no requirement on Robert Mueller, number one. Number two, most people who know Robert Mueller think he's a career guy. He's not going to deliberately poke during an election season, but he's going to do his work. So they're just trying to convince, what, the electorate that if Bob Mueller keeps going, you know, he's a horrible person?

JOHNSON: Yes, it's an argument about propriety and that if he were to do something, it would be -- it would be a break with tradition. It would be inappropriate. And, you know, the president's lawyers are making political arguments because they're worried about impeachment, which is a political matter. So I think they're doing what's appropriate in the interest of their client.

KING: In the -- in their client, right.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

VISER: And to Lisa's point, we -- we don't hear from Bob Mueller during all of this.

KING: Right.


VISER: We only hear from the Trump side of things. And that's had a big hit on Bob Mueller's numbers. But he's been sort of slowly and methodically doing the work and building his case.

LERER: And also --

KING: When he wants us to know something, he will let us know something.


KING: I'm sorry, quick.

LERER: Last I checked, President Trump is not on the ballot. So there is a real open question about how much of that rule pertains to elections where the person in question is not on the ballot.

KING: That's a great point there. We'll keep an eye on this one as we count down to those 60 days. Again, take a breath. Mainly we're waiting to see what happens in the Manafort trial this afternoon when they come back in next hour.

Up next for us here, though, President Trump being criticized for not doing enough to secure the border, by a Democrat.


[12:18:43] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD (chanting): Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're building that wall. We're building the wall. Don't worry. We've already started. We've already started. We're building that wall. We've already started. We're doing a lot of things that people don't even know about.


KING: That's President Trump this past weekend in Ohio recycling a signature 2016 theme in an effort to excite Republican voters about the 2018 midterms. But the administration's own numbers don't always back up the president's tough immigration talk. And because of that, we have an interesting midterm twist today. The president, and most of you know this, still struggling to get his

wall money from Congress and arrests for illegal border crossings are up in 2018 after dipping last year. So, get this, a vulnerable Trump state Democratic senator now trying to turn the tables. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp tells "The Washington Examiner," quote, I don't share the view when people say, well, we don't need to do anything, the border's secure. The border is not secure, but we need to be smart about how we do border security. Here's the punchline. We're waiting for a southern border strategy. Bam.

It's not often that you have a Democrat essentially saying the president either isn't tough enough or doesn't have a plan, choose your way to characterize it, on immigration.

[12:20:03] RAJU: Yes, moving to the right of Trump. I mean, you know, she also vote -- supported the Gang of Eight immigration bill that did have a lot of border security money but also included a pathway to citizenship for people who were here illegally. This is an issue that, of course, stems from --

KING: Suggesting she's trying to reposition herself to the right.

RAJU: Yes, perhaps. I know that's shocking in an election year. But, undoubtedly, this is an issue that Republicans view as something they can energize their base on. If she could co-op (ph) this in some way, perhaps that works.

And, you know, Trump's saying that they're starting to build the wall. I mean that is far from the truth right now. And they're not getting the money that they need. And he's also not fulfilling his own campaign pledge that -- where's Mexico paying for this wall?

KING: And he's talked about -- he's talked about the possibility of a government shutdown if he doesn't get a big chunk, a commitment, an allocated, not a promise but an allocation of money in the last spending bill they have to do when Congress comes back.

I just want to put these numbers up just so you see them. Again, you know, there's just been a lot of tougher enforcement by the administration, but there's also this, the numbers don't lie, southern border patrol apprehensions. You see the numbers going up. This is the current fiscal year. The government fiscal year starts in October, running through July. You see those numbers. And here's a little comparison. Fiscal year 2014, when Obama was president, Barack Obama was president, there's the numbers there, this is family unit apprehensions, about -- just shy of 70,000, F.Y. '14, just 77,000, almost 78,000. The Trump number is higher than the Obama numbers.

JOHNSON: You know, I think there are two ways to read those numbers. One is, is -- are there more crossings because the economy is booming and the president is empowering border patrol agents to arrest people?

But the Heitkamp thing is such a fascinating window into red-state Democrat election year politics with Democrats. She's not the only one. Joe Donnelly of Indiana came out saying he supports building the wall. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the same. But on the wall in particular, I really think that the president's

calls to build the wall are -- I go back to that old cliche of the election, that Trump's voters take him seriously but not literally. I really think it stands for really people wanting strong border enforcement. And you know that Heitkamp called really for a southern border strategy. I think she's right on with that. And I don't think Trump's voters will be disappointed if we don't have a wall specifically, but they do want border enforcement.

KING: One of the strengths of the Trump campaign was that he was, and rightly so in many cases, able to look voters in the eye and say, you know, career politicians are hypocrites. They say one thing and they do another. He made the case that the Clintons don't play by the rules. You know, sometimes fairly, sometimes maybe not so fairly. But that sold, right? Don't trust career politicians.

Will it affect him that he rails against this so-called chain migration? And, forgive me, his wife's parents were made United States citizens yesterday through the very policy that the president of the United States says should be ripped up and thrown away.

VISER: It probably should, you know. I mean it is clearly hypocritical. But there are so many instances where hypocrisy doesn't seem to stick to Donald Trump. You know, and why that is, you know, is many thesis papers to explore that.

But I do think that it's a clearly hypocritical move where his family is benefitting. And it's kind of another interesting instance where Melania Trump's parents, the lawyer for them, was making a clear point in stating that chain migration is a dirty word to describe family reunification.

KING: Right.

VISER: And it's one of those -- yet another instances where Melania, in her viewpoints, are totally at odds from President Trump and his viewpoints and what his administration is doing.

KING: We shall see as that plays out.

JOHNSON: I think this will affect him about as much as the Trump Organization's use of foreign workers to build properties.

KING: There you go.

JOHNSON: That's my prediction.

KING: And, again, Heidi Heitkamp trying to turn the tables on border enforcement issues. We'll see if any Democrat tries to take this issue and put it into a campaign. That's if you magnify it, maybe. If we at least get a test.

Up next, Republicans' midterm messaging features one very familiar face this cycle not named President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:28:48] KING: Midterms are historically about who's sitting in the Oval Office, but some Republicans are trying to flip the script and make Nancy Pelosi the issue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dishonest Danny would vote with Pelosi to raise taxes and give amnesty to millions of illegals. Dishonest Danny O'Connor, he'd make Washington worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before you vote, do your research. Nancy Pelosi has. That's why Pelosi's financing Lisa Brown's campaign. Same values. Same liberal records.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Brindisi's liberal agenda is too extreme for upstate New York. Under Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Brindisi, our economy crashed. Reckless spending. Devastating unemployment.


KING: According to Kantar Media CMAG, a group that tracks campaign ads, 37 percent of Republican TV ads that aired in Ohio's 12th district mentioned or featured Pelosi. Nationally, 11 percent of all GOP House and Senate ads at least mention Pelosi. Republicans say using Pelosi as a midterm motivator works.

And while Democrats call that wishful thinking or at least exaggerated spin, it's no secret these GOP attacks come as more and more Democrats say they won't support the California Democrat for speaker if their party retakes the House this November.

[12:30:02] That tells me that it may not be working as well as Republicans say, but it has to be working if more and more Democrats are saying, nope, won't do it, right?

LERER: So, I think there's two interesting parts of this argument.